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Hocus Pocus 2 2022

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Emily Clark

Movie Review

Legend has it that if a virgin lights the Black Flame Candle on All Hallow’s Eve during a full moon, the Sanderson Sisters will rise again, wreaking havoc upon Salem, eating the souls of every child.

“It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus,” Max said, 29 years ago.

And despite his little sister, Dani, begging him not to, he lit the candle, causing the witches to rise and nearly causing the death of every kid in Salem.

I say nearly because Max, Dani, Allison (Max’s crush) and Thackery Binx (a boy who was transformed into an immortal cat by the sisters after they murdered his own little sister) managed to stop the Sandersons before they could fulfill their evil plot.

Now, nearly three decades later, Becca doesn’t believe the legend either (probably because she and the other teenagers of Salem weren’t even alive when the sisters returned the first time).

All Becca wants to do is celebrate her 16th birthday with her two best friends, Izzy and Cassie, by performing a ritual for blessings over the new year and having a scary-movie marathon.

Only Cassie isn’t interested in this childish tradition. She stopped hanging out with the girls after she started dating Mike. And he’d rather throw a Halloween party for everyone in their grade.

So Becca and Izzy go it alone. Becca lights a candle, and the girls begin to speak their wishes.

Then something happens.

The candle begins to spark like a firework. Becca quickly extinguishes it with water, but then it relights itself.

And the flame is now black.

The wind kicks up. The ground shakes and splits. The moon goes completely dark. And the Sanderson Sisters rise up from their graves once more.

Lock up your children, Salem. Because the witches are back …

again.

Positive Elements

When push comes to shove, Becca and her friends protect one another. And they eventually apologize for ignoring each other, too. They also convince some other characters to do the right thing.

Mike learns the hard way that pointing out people’s differences and calling them “weird” is the same as making fun of them (even though he thought he was just making conversation). And he begins to apologize to all the people he might have hurt in this manner.

Two teens are rightfully disciplined for causing a disturbance in class during a test. Another is grounded for disobeying her dad and throwing an unsupervised party.

The Sanderson Sisters, for all their wickedness, do love each other dearly. And their quest for eternal life (while problematic) is fueled by their desire never to be apart.

Spiritual Elements

It’s no secret that the Sanderson Sisters’ beliefs and abilities are rooted in the occult. In the previous film, they worshiped a man dressed as Satan for Halloween, believing him to be their “Master,” and we see flashbacks to that scene in this film. Several characters reference the devil, and a few of them dress up as the devil for Halloween (as well as witches, monsters and the like).

Even as a child, Winifred (the eldest Sanderson) stood in opposition to the Church. She openly rebuked the reverend of Salem and was eventually banished for her sins. And centuries later, she still shows no remorse, “relish[ing] in her petulances,” we hear.

The witches use their powers in a variety of ways. One witch causes lightning to rain down from the sky upon Salem. Another transforms herself into a crow. Some witches use their powers to form protective shields. Others create dark altars with objects such as a petrified spider and “the head of a lover.” We hear that the Sandersons are planning to use a spell to turn a boy into a cat; we also know that they used this spell on a different boy. The witches fly on household cleaning tools (such as brooms).

Winifred is told as a child that a witch is nothing without her coven, and she’s encouraged to care for her sisters (since they are her coven). Becca and her friends form a coven of their own in rebellion against the Sandersons.

The Sandersons get their spells and potions from a magical, sentient book. It has a single eye on the cover, and it can fly and turn its pages on its own.

The Sandersons also have the ability to enchant people with song. (The lyrics of some of these songs celebrate their “sins” and “wickedness.”) And one of these songs specifically targets children, luring them to their deaths.

In the previous film, Winifred used magic to raise her boyfriend, Billy Butcherson, from the dead. In this film, Billy rises from his grave again, explaining that because nobody broke the spell that turned him into a zombie, he simply sat in his grave for the past 29 years. [Spoiler Warning] In this film, Billy is properly put to rest.

Several characters use salt as a defense against the Sandersons’ dark magic.

Becca and Izzy (and presumably Cassie as well in previous years), pray to the pagan Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) as a part of Becca’s birthday “ritual.” A few people grow upset with them for messing with occult stuff since it causes the return of the Sandersons.

We hear about other magical spells and potions. A magic shop sells replica occult items and New Age products, such as crystals. Becca uses many of these items. We hear that witches’ powers manifest at age 16.

[Spoiler Warning] Gilbert, the owner of Salem’s “Olde Magic Shoppe” practically worships the Sanderson Sisters, creating a new Black Flame Candle for Becca to bring the sisters back.

Sexual Content

Several drag queens dress up as the Sanderson Sisters for Halloween. We see a gay couple watching the original Hocus Pocus on TV.

After being told about the Sanderson legend, a child asks what a virgin is. And an adult, unsure of what to say, replies it’s a person who’s never lit a candle before. Later, this same man says he couldn’t light the Black Flame Candle since he’s not a virgin, grossing out the teenagers present.

Sarah Sanderson, the youngest sister, wears a dress that often exposes her garters and cleavage. (And though her character doesn’t fraternize with any men, unlike the previous film, she still likes to put herself on display and to be thought of as beautiful.) Characters dressed up like the Sandersons for Halloween sometimes have revealing costumes. A woman wears the same risqué Madonna costume that Max and Dani’s mom wore in the previous film.

In the previous film, we hear that Billy cheated on Winifred with Sarah. In this film, we learn this isn’t the truth. Though Winifred considered Billy to be her “soulmate,” she only ever shared a single kiss with him.

Violent Content

As a child (before she became a witch) Sarah is nearly killed by an older witch, who tries to feed Sarah a potion that will then allow the witch to consume Sarah’s soul and youth. (And flashbacks show the Sandersons as adult witches killing a child in this same manner.) We hear more references to this potion throughout the film, and several witches casually talk about killing and eating children.

We see several witches using their powers to zap people. The more powerful the witch, the more painful the zap. Witches also use their powers to throw people around, sometimes hurting them. We hear about a witch who poisoned her boyfriend and sewed his mouth shut after she caught him cheating on her.

The Sandersons vow to kill any teenagers they meet (and threaten to murder many others). Mary Sanderson (the middle sister) threatens to “fricassee” someone. The Sandersons are delighted when they learn that a certain spell requires the blood of their enemy (and Winifred uses her long, sharp nails to nick Cassie’s neck for a drop of blood). Winifred is sometimes violent toward her sisters, smacking Sarah across the face at one point.

A flashback shows the Sanderson Sisters with nooses around their necks. (And the camera shot that follows shows their legs dangling off the ground as they had been hanged.)

Becca and her friends throw rocks at the Sandersons. Though he’s technically dead, Billy occasionally loses body parts, such as his hand and his head.

A girl storms through a crowd, knocking things out of people’s hands and shoving them aside. Winifred breaks a plate in anger. Three young girls are roughly handled by townsfolk trying to separate their family. A boy faints and falls to the ground.

Crude or Profane Language

A young Winifred takes delight in the fact that she took the Lord’s name in vain twice. We hear nearly 15 other misuses of God’s name. In one scene, Puritans are scandalized by these outbursts.

We hear a single use of “d–n.” Characters repeatedly substitute the word “b–ch” for witch. Someone exclaims, “Holy Lucifer!” Other insults are exchanged.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several teens attend an unsupervised party, though it’s unclear if their yellow Solo cups contain alcohol or not.

Other Negative Elements

Even before Winifred and her sisters dabbled in the dark arts, the people of Salem called them “wicked” and “witches.” They specifically called Winifred ugly, and many were angered by her pro-female stance (she’s scolded for turning down an arranged marriage and speaking ill of her would-be betrothed). And it’s perhaps because of this mistreatment and rejection that the Sandersons acted as badly as they did.

We learn that the Sanderson Sisters were orphaned at a young age. And when a young Winifred refuses to obey Salem’s reverend, he tries to take Mary and Sarah out of her custody (though the girls escape).

Winifred is domineering over her sisters even though they are good to her. She often puts her own wants and desires before theirs. And it’s clear Sarah and Mary wish she appreciated them more.

A girl says something is based on the “patriarchal fear of female aging.”

Characters lie and break promises. Some act cowardly. Winifred ignores several warnings not to do a dangerous spell and pays the price for it. A teenage girl throws a party even though her dad specifically forbade it. Some teens are rude about their friend’s mom. Some teens are mean to each other.

Someone passes gas. We hear a cat is “scared poopless.” The Sanderson Sisters eat and drink beauty products (not realizing they are supposed to be applied topically).

Conclusion

Oh yes, the Sanderson Sisters are back. Only this time, consuming the souls of Salem’s children won’t be enough. Now, they’ve vowed to become the most powerful witches ever. And they want to destroy all of Salem’s citizens.

The spiritual content found here pretty much falls in line with what we saw in the original Hocus Pocus back in 1993. That is to say, it’s a story played for dark laughs that’s full to the witch cauldron’s brim of spooky spirituality. The result is a sequel that takes the original’s occult themes and amplifies them.

The Sandersons, by their own admission, are evil. Yes, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker (who played the trio of sisters in the original film as well) can be pretty hilarious. But they worship Satan. And they’re using what’s specifically labeled as “dark” magic to conjure enough power to kill all the people of Salem.

Sexual content isn’t graphic, but again, like the predecessor, we hear awkward conversations about virginity among young teens. Meanwhile, some LGBT characters (including drag queens) make an appearance as well.

Language concerns are relatively minor, but a young Winifred Sanderson boasts about taking the Lord’s name in vain twice. And even though someone calls this abuse “blasphemy,” God’s name is repeatedly and casually misused throughout the rest of the film. To me, those profanities further demonstrate the filmmakers’ blatant disregard for the sanctity of His name.

And it’s a shame that the film’s only truly redeeming quality also comes from its villains. The Sanderson Sisters love each other. Yes, Winifred finds Mary and Sarah to be infuriating at times, but she never wants to be apart from them either.

Becca, Izzy and Cassie, though technically the heroes, have a weak storyline by comparison. Their own redemption arc is overshadowed by the fact that they act like immature and spoiled teenagers through most of the film.

And frankly, they don’t hold a Black Flame Candle to the Sandersons.

So while Hocus Pocus 2 might seem like spooky PG silliness for some, its “unholy mischief” offers plenty of reasons for families to steer clear of this sequel’s occult imagery, ideas and worldview.

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Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her fiancé indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.